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Batters up! Calgary slo-pitch leagues set to return

Recreation leagues are beginning to allow sports again, thanks to slowly lifting restrictions. Slo-pitch seems to be popular as the opportunity for social distancing can continue. 

The past softball seasons since COVID-19 began have either been postponed, cut short, or cancelled entirely. Players and league organizers are hoping for this summer to be a home run. 

Should restrictions on outdoor sports games lift June 10, teams will once again take the field for a bit of competition and a little bit more beer.

Stage 2 of Alberta’s reopening plan means that there are no restrictions on youth and adult sports – indoor and outdoor.

Time to take the field

M. Toth is looking forward to her season, which is supposed to begin June 14. Toth has played softball for 12 years and missed last years’ games wholeheartedly. In previous years, Toth said her league would have an opening tournament the first weekend of May to start the season.

“I didn’t play last year because of the pandemic. I have a high-risk family, so I chose not to. But from what I understand, last year they only started on July 1,” she said.

“I missed it tremendously.”

Toth said the socialization, getting outside, and exercise is what fuels her love for the sport. While she said she will certainly be playing this year, she harbours light feelings of hesitation.

“Hesitation, just because I don’t know if there is a chance for contact. I’m not in the workforce per se, I work from home. That’s just extra exposure for me,” she said. 

“But still, it’s outside. I’m willing to play because I have my one vaccination, I guess. And because I just missed it too much last year.”

Calgary Sport and Social Club

Vacant diamonds, soon to be full of slide marks and spitz. BRITTANY BURRIDGE FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

The Calgary Sport and Social Club (CSSC) has been running since 1996—25 years of fun and games. Their Edmonton Sport and Social Club (ESSC) began in 2004. They are Alberta’s largest adult rec-sport provider. 

Jon Diment, the Senior Manager of Operation with CSSC, said coronavirus has taken them from a thriving business to one that couldn’t operate properly for the last 15 months. With fluctuating restrictions, CSSC faced opening and closing throughout the seasons.  

“Of the last five seasons, we’ve only been able to run one and a half seasons, fully, really. Summer 2020, we ran full and then half of the fall 2020 season,” Diment said. 

“It definitely hit us pretty hard. Due to our size, we don’t qualify for many government funding grants or anything like that, so it’s been a challenge.”

The CSSC was unable to run softball in the spring, which Diment said is their biggest season for slo-pitch. Yet, the summer 2020 season sold out because he said people were eager to get on the field again.

“2021, obviously again spring has not been able to run. We’ve just opened up our summer registration since we got news that sports are allowed to come back and registrations are looking strong again, so demand is definitely there,” Diment said.

“It’s just been a case of whether or not we can provide it legally due to restrictions.” 

Dip in registration

Diment said the CSSC hopes to get at least 70 per cent of the registration numbers they experienced pre-Covid, as some of their player database is unwilling to risk coronavirus exposure. 

“Slo-pitch ended up being one of our strongest sports because you have social distancing built into the game. You play on a huge field where people are standing pretty far away,” he said.

“I’d say, on average, we’re kind of around 80 per cent of what we usually would be.” 

Thankfully for CSSC, Diment said players have been understanding about paying registration fees even if seasons are cut short. With the reopening timelines, Diment said people seem more comfortable to sign up. 

Diment said he hopes the next season will be able to run until the end. He mentioned the CSSC has been big advocates in their conversations with AHS and the MLA and local government in terms of allowing for the return of sports.

“We truly believe that sports provide a lot of mental health benefits, from a social perspective, from a competition perspective, to staying physically active and healthy,” he said. 

“It’s a service that can benefit all Albertans and give them a chance to get outside again and get active. I’m sure a lot of people are exhausted of lockdown at this point so it’d be nice to finally have some restrictions ease so that we can get back to a bit of normalcy.”

Sports and Smiles

A team from last year after a successful season. BRITTANY BURRIDGE FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY.

Toth also mentioned her reasons why she believes people need recreational sports once again. She said having an outlet such as softball are important for people’s health, happiness and friendships.

“It’s the camaraderie of it. There’s a lot of people I play ball with that that’s the only time I see them really. There’s a lot of people that you miss seeing, and you get to meet new people,” she said. 

“I think it’s important to get out there, exercise, and stay in shape. I think it’s good for your mental health and your physical health.”